Friday, 30 August 2013


The horn arrived this morning, (from Highland Horn) you can see it's pale and some bits have nice black blobs showing, of course it looks rough and scruffy in this state but once shaped and polished it should have some nice streaks of colour. I like the polishing phase, as it suddenly brings out all the features and beauty of the horn. Those 6 bits should keep me going for a while.

I've done some more on Twister 2. I've cut out a bit for the grip, not too much but just enough to show where it will be and allow me plenty of wood for shaping and adjustment. I've pegged 4 small knots too on my better safe than sorry principal. You can see the peg near the tip, I have the lamp on it to warm it and help cure the epoxy glue quickly. I've had it on the tiller on a loose string and pulled it to 45#, it flexes a bit, The inner limbs are moving, which is how I like to do it, get the inners just flexing then move out along the limb. Some other people do it the other way round, get the tips moving first... whatever works for you!

We have visitors over the weekend and I'm also going to be on the tree surgeon's stand at  Thurlow Fayre on Sunday The Tree surgeon is the guy who let me take all the Yew on this post

Hopefully on the Monday I'll get the top nock done on the BooYew bow.
Ha! Just had a thought, maybe I could get it glued on Saturday morning and shape it up at the Fayre... give me something to show and tell.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Yew Boo Update

The bow has a better feel now it's shorter, it's more stable laterally and the draw weight is a bit over 50# now. I've got the brace height up to between 5 1/2 - 6" which is fine.
I've shot a few arrows using a spare string, it seems very punchy.
I was going to press on with horn nocks until I discovered I've run out of white Water buffalo horn. I did have two bits, but one got lost during the Tudor filming at the Weald & Downland Museum. I'll phone in an order to Highland Horn for some more on Tuesday.

Meanwhile I've been roughing out a Yew primitive for a farmer from up near Cambridge, He bought the stave of American Yew online. There are some fine cracks in it and some twist, but I think it will make a fine bow. It will be pretty much like my favourite field bow 'Twister' which was made of English Yew, it will be a chance to compare the two woods side by side. I'm calling it 'Twister 2' for now. Here are two pics of it roughed out.
It was tricky tying to lay it out taking note of the cracks and the twist. After I'd sawn it, I was worried that I should have done it differently, but I re-assembled the sawn bits to check, and there wasn't really any better way to do it. The piece of Yew was half a log of fairly small diameter with the centre offset towards the sapwood at one end.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Boo Yew On the Tiller

The initial tillering is a bit tricky as, at a low brace, just an inch or so the bow will try to bend sideways. This is especially noticeable with this bow as it's rather narrow. At some points on the limb it's as thick as it is wide, so it doesn't really care which way it bends. Heavily recurved bows can flip over on the tiller in the early stages and give you a nasty whack.
So it's a bit of a race, to get it back to a reasonable brace and exercise it  to get it bending in the right direction whilst getting the bend even. At the same time adjusting the nocks sideways a bit to try to help avoid the sideways bend.
It's a mistake to over react to problems. A little off one side of the nock and pulling the string to one side can be enough to keep it in line at the early stages. Don't be fooled into thinking a bow has any respect for straight lines marked down the back of the bow! It may well settle down to flex smoothly and consistently on a slightly skewed plane.
It's the old game of successive approximation and slowly slowly. As the bow is tillered more the thickness will be slightly reduced and the bow will settle to become more stable.
I don't actually like the phrase 'it will "learn" how to bend'  I'm not sure quite sure why I don't like it. Maybe 'the wood will slowly become conditioned to bending in one plane' is better... I don't want to get pedantic or pretentious about it... so whatever works for you.
People say a bow should be exercised by pulling it 20 times every time a little wood is removed. I think it's down to common sense and feel. I'm certainly exercising this one to try and get it stable as early as I can.
It's standing in the corner braced to 5" at the moment.
The rain has been steady all day, so I've been in and out of the garage slowly getting it tillered. the draw weight feels pretty high, but it should as I'm aiming for 55# at 26" which would feel pretty heavy at 28"
It's not quite making it at the moment as it's 50# at 26" mind I've left it slightly long and it's still a lowish brace of about 5". If I lop and inch off each end and brace it to 6" it should be close enough, I didn't have enough width of wood to get any higher without ending up with a bow thicker than it was wide. That would be a recipe for nasty instability. At the moment it's about 70" long, but I want a fairly short bow to suit the archer. If I end up about 68" nock to nock, it will still be about 70" overall allowing for the horn nocks.

You can see the tiller is a bit asymmetric at the moment.
Criticism of tiller:- Slight weak point middle of left limb, and the outer third of each limb a whisker stiff.
The lower (left) limb went from being a bit strong to how it is in the pic just by cleaning up some slightly thick areas as I checked along the limb!
I shall adjust the tiller a bit, and then take 1" off each limb (maybe a whisker more of the left) and then check it again. Not sure how much more I'll do today tho'
Funny, zooming in the draw weight looks nearer 45 than 50# in that pic, mind the bow had been sitting there.
No point worrying, it will come out how it comes out and the proof of the quality will be how it shoots. On primitive Archer people are always asking how to recover lost draw weight and I usually advise it is a waste of time and you end up chasing your own tail. the best way is heat treating, but obviously I can't do that due to the glue line. Lopping some off the ends can help but not if it compromises the design of the bow. I usually allow an extra inch either end, but by the time I've take that off and re-tillered I expect it will be about 50 @ 26" I won't beat myself up about it and it will be a matter of trying it out, if it does the job fine, if not I'll tiller it out to 28", use it myself or find it a home.

I've just gone out to the garage and sawed 1 1/4" off the lower limb and 1" off the upper... no point messing about! New temporary nockshave been glued on with spuperglue and strapped with rubber.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Good Glue Up

Whew, I took the wraps off this morning. I gave it overnight rather than rushing to see if it was good last night. Most glues benefit from a longer curing time.
It looks just about right, slight hint of reflex, less being apparent on the limb which was deflexed, but that's to be expected.
The glue line looks good, you can see the ample squeeze out. When cleaned up the glue line is barely visible, that's well over full size in the pic. The shaggy edge to the 'boo is the masking tape still covering it, handy for marking out the bow and protecting the boo.

For my own information I mixed up 400gn of Resintite with 200gn of water which was just about the right quantity. I'd mixed the same first time but only used about 2/3 of it.

I've rasped off the excess boo, taking care to rasp from boo towards the Yew to avoid tearing off any splinters. I used my old cabinet rasp as the glue is rather hard and I save my new rasp for clean wood. I've marked a centre line and I'll be cleaning it up ready to flex on the tiller. I'll glue on a temporary overlay on the tips and leave a little extra width, this will allow some adjustment of string line if necessary. The nock can be cut into the overlay rather than the sides of the tips, this maximises adjustment room.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Yew Boo Glue Two

Excuse the tabloid style title... I couldn't resist.
Been at it all morning planing down another bit of 'boo, I think I got it a tad thinner this time, tapering from about 4mm to 2mm.
I grooved the mating surfaces slightly using my cabinet rasp sideways on like a spokeshave. There are endless arguments and discussions about whether you should roughen surfaces or not for gluing.
I think it depends on the glue really, some have gap filling properties, some don't. I effectively roughened the surfaces , but only in the direction of the natural fibres.
I took more trouble binding it with freshly cut rubber straps, having two layers all along the stave. I strapped it down to the 2x2 and put a block under each end, giving it a bit more reflex this time. It seemed a heck of a force needed to pull it into reflex, so hopefully there will be enough oomph to make the required draw weight. It was about 12:30 when I finished so, the strapping can come off late tonight. They say 6 hours, but I'll give it until 10 o'clock, maybe that way I'll avoid having to sit through another depressing news program (insert your own rant about politics/religion/man's general stupidity here)

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Ha'porth of Tar?

Drat! As I started cleaning up the glued bow I noticed a couple of hairline gaps at the join. I wasn't very happy.
When I'd glued it up I'd seen the glue seemed to be soaking into the bamboo a bit and at one point I'd added a bit more as I was binding down the backing. In retrospect I should have undone it and added an extra bead of glue along the whole glue line and the re-strapped.
Why didn't I?
Well, the instructions for the glue say only glue one surface, but I always glue both, precisely because I don't want to risk a dry joint.
Normally as it's bound down I'd expect some slight squeeze out of glue along the edge. Indeed, that's what I'd got along most of it.
The slight gaps were barely visible and maybe only went under the 'boo a tiny distance, but how could I be sure? Perhaps I should have added a second layer of binding? Would that have done it?
I rubbed in some freshly mixed slightly thin Resintite massaging it into the join as a half hearted attemt to 'fix' it, but I still wasn't convinced.
One of the gaps was under a node and the thought of a dry glue line under the node didn't fill me with confidence.
Did I really want to risk a couple of hundred quids worth of bow for a slat of boo that cost £6 ? It hadn't taken me that long to do the job in the first place. I've had a couple of breakages recently and did I want to risk another?
I was really glad that I bought plenty of 'boo and had thus saved on the shipping cost.
My wife finally convinced me when she said "you're not leaving it like that?" and she's seen enough bows made to be virtually an honorary bowyer herself!
Rather than prevaricate I picked up the plane and set to taking off the boo.

I wish I'd taken pics before I massaged in the glue but the pic does give an idea of the size of the gap, if you look at the glue line near the top of the pic is is barely visible. The second pic shows what does look like a dry area.
I shall make a virtue of necessity and glue a little more reflex in this time, I will also increase the taper a whisker and even it up more before the glue up this time. Or to put it another way I'll just take more care and do it right.

Resintite does have 'gap filling' properties and that fine gap would have been ok had it been solidly filled with glue. The ideal glue line is about as thick as a hair, or at most as thick the fingernail on your little finger.

Would it have failed? Who knows.
The moral of the story is always listen to that little voice of doubt that says "that's not right" especially when the glue stays workable for 2 hours and there's not really any rush.
I've got it back down to the wood already, but I'm not going to try and re-glue it tonight... oh deary me no!
But maybe I should add that £6 and the 1/2 penny worth of glue to the price of the bow? ;-)

Monday, 19 August 2013

Boo Glued and Frozen Bread!

The Bamboo has been planed down to a nice thin slat about 3-4mm thick near the centre and about 3mm at the tips. A sharp plane does the job nicely if the slat is clamped to a length of 2x2 , a rasp can adjust any thick areas and the belt sander flattens it off ready to glue.
Like all these jobs it wise to stop when you think it's finished, have a cup of tea and then have another look, there are invariably areas that need improvement. Too late if you've rushed into the glue up.
I glued it up with Resintite and bound the slat to the Yew belly with one layer of rubber strapping pulled V tight. The stave was then bound to the length of 2x2 at the grip and a couple of offcuts placed under the tips.
I flexed it a few times to settle it, the glue should be cured by tomorrow morning.
At a casual glance it looks like I've put in a lot more reflex than the inch or two I'd said I'd give it. Looks can be deceptive , if you look at the pics, yes it looks like the tip is up by 3" looking at the top of thestave, but the grip itself is up by 1.5" so I've only actually given it the 1-2" I said.
There are a couple of thin wedges under the grip to get it to sit square, it was all at a slight angle intil I added them, again, always wise to look along the stave to make sure it's all straight and true... no good unwrapping it in the morning to find the reflex bend is slightly sideways.

Ah yes..
I forgot to take a loaf out of the freezer this morning...the bandsaw sliced it a treat.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Skinny Yew Belly Spliced

The skinny Oregon Yew billets are spliced up and roughed down to shape with a fairly even thickness taper of about 1.5mm every 6 inches. There are still some rather narrow areas but I think I have enough thickness.

The splice is ugly as it's been patched a bit to maximise the available wood, there are still gaps visible on the belly side of the splice. I may add a slice of Yew over the belly at the grip, this will hide the ugly splice, allow me to fill the gaps and add a little extra bulk at the grip.
On the other hand I  might not do it as the gaps may well disappear as the bow is worked down. It's easier to add a patch while there is some wood there and it's still a relatively square/flat stave. Trying to patch a little dip in the surface of the finished bow would be trickier. The bow is going to have a leather grip (veg tan?) so strength, stability and comfort of the grip area are of more concern than the look of the splice.
I'm not deliberately 'botching' this together, it's a matter of only having limited wood available to work with. I still expect the finished bow to be of a very high standard.
I'm looking for 55# at 26" but it's going to be compared with a rather nice slim Hilary Greenland bamboo backed bow so I'm going have to work hard to beat that!
You can see from the pics the stave is beginning to look ok. It has some deflex in one limb, but that's no problem as it will be reflexed and inch or so when it's glued up with it's bamboo backing. That's one reason for getting a reasonably good taper on the thickness. I won't glue it up against a former, I'll just glue it straight then flex it a bit and strap it up with a block under each tip and the grip pulled down allowing the taper to produce the reflex curve.
You can also see one of the narrow areas where the bandsaw marks are still showing on the sides and there is a small knot to be plugged.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Skinny Splice and Monkey Bow

I'm using my last two skinny billets of Oregon Yew to try and make a Bamboo backed Yew for Mick the Blacksmith. I'm not sure if there is enough Yew there, but I've borrowed a trick from a fellow bowyer. If you cut the splice, then steam the forked end, push the two parts together and clamp it up, once cooled down you should have a perfect fit.
Now my billets were so narrow I used the thinnest to be the pointed part of the splice and cut the V of the splice too tight, so that when steamed and pushed together it would spread a bit wider effectively giving me a tiny bit more width.
The steam and clamp trick seemed to work very well indeed. I still messed about a fair bit though trying to maximise the width of the bow at the grip.
You can see from the pic that the splice can't push fully in. Once steamed I could push it fully home.

The Monkey Bow... Ah, I was playing with the worst half of the Elder I'd cut earlier in the year, it's short and deflexed so it will need levers spliced onto the tips. Anyhow I cut some of the wood off the great gnarled knots at the grip and ...Well you can see for your self!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Cat Out of the Bag

Now that the BBC has announced the Tudor Abbey Farm series I'm at liberty to let the cat out of the bag.
The Tudor stuff I was doing was for one episode of the program. I did some work on a bow (on camera), tillering it from floor tillered to full draw. This was filmed in the Tudor barn at the Weald and Downland Museum. It was a mad rush using an extremely knotty stave which had been destined for a character primitive bow. Hopefully it showed the tools techniques and processes.
 In the afternoon we were shooting with the presenters and three of my friends.
A great time was had by all, and I'm given to understand they were very happy with the filming. I'm not sure how it will be cut or what will be shown, I just hope it comes over as entertaining and I don't look an arse!
Here's a pic (Taken by Roy one of my friends who came for the shooting part of the filming) of Ruth Goodman, Peter Ginn, me and a mic boom on the South Downs!
Peter has my 50# Yew longbow with horn side nocks, strung with linen, Ruth has my little 35# Hazel primitive which could be slightly controversial, although I suspect only the most avid toxopholite will notice. I think I have my old self nocked Yew longbow in that shot.
The little Hazel bow is a primitive flatbow in style, more reminiscent of Neolithic or maybe Iron age however we can't know that such bows were not in use still in Tudor times. So it's not anachronistic in the usual way of something modern appearing before it was invented (yes I had to tke my watch off) but it could be too early for that period!
My guess is that bowyers always have and always will try different woods and styles of bow and will hark back to the bows of the past. We only have a few surving bows to study, the Mary Rose bows are a great source of material but they represent a snapshot in time and usage. Do they represent the workaday bow of the farmer, peasant, child, woman, poacher or vagabond?... probably the longbow was ubiquitous but we can't be certain.
You can see Peter is drawing a bit short with rather a modern style, he'd done some target archery before which meant he was a pretty good shot. With the relatively heavy poundage and his target style Ruth was equalling him for distance! She was pulling the much shorter and remarkably forgiving Hazel to almost the full 32" of the arrows (it's only tillered to 28", but didn't seem to take any set from it's exertions)
See  this blog entry for an explanation.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Sculpture Finished

Well all finished except for a base to stand on.
Showing the three together gives an idea of how an idea or concept evolves and develops. Which is 'best' is mostly a matter of taste. The first being made of Yew is appealing, the second is more sinuous and fluid, the last is more powerful and muscular.
Did a bit more roughing out of a warbow stave too, it won't be ready until November, but some more reducing of the stave has seen two big knots dissapear from the belly.
Had a visit from a guy I met on one of the archery forums, he brought over a 1/4 yew log which we ran through the bandsaw. He showed me some planks of Hickory and Lemonwood which he'd bought. V interesting visit, we had a go with the repeater and some of the other bows, he was favourably impressed with the Hazel and I think he'll be cutting some soon to have a go at a self bow.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Copper Arrow

On the other archer sculptures I've done the arrows had no fletchings. I thought that a lack of the them would let the piece down on this one... But how to do them? Trying to solder 3 individual fletchings of copper would be a nightmare.
I had an off cut of the 5mm rod left about 2" long ... so I embarked on trying to fashion one from that.
It took plenty of hammering and annealing of the copper, but it slowly became thinner and longer with a thick lump at each end, these were filed to become the flights and point.
It's not perfect, but it looks pretty good. The shaft is even slightly barrelled! It's taken the best part of a day, disproportionately long to the rest of the work, but as they say, the devil is in the detail.
I've been tinkering with the archer himself and adjusting the feel, balance, bow and hand positions. He's looking good.
Should have it all done tomorrow except for mounting on a slice of Yew.
Here's the arrow, maybe it's a tad fat?
I'll have a look tomorrow with it on the sculpture, it does need to be fairly solid.
I hate it when you see archer sculptures in stately homes, usually a bronze of a nubile Diana with the bow held the wrong way round, a bent arrow and a slack thread for the string. Usually done with attention to thinly veiled eroticism rather than the actual representation of shooting a bow!

Friday, 9 August 2013

Copper Archer has a Bow

I've made the full draw bow for the archer I bought some 5mm copper rod to make a really solid looking warbow for the full draw pose. I've lightly riveted the full draw arms on so I can have a good look and start on the final work.

Meanwhile I had an enquiry about the details of my tiller rig so here are some pics.
The block which supports the bow was originally screwed straight into the wall with coach bolts, but one character bow was very wide with waggly limbs which fouled the wall so I added another block behind it to space it away from wall by about an inch. The second pic shows how the pulley is bolted to the wall. The final pic shows the winch mounded on a free standing wooden base, from (blockboard). As the tension is applied by the winch it pulls tightly in and down towards the wall and floor becoming very solid. Yet it can be lifted away to allow the rope to be pulled manually so that a bow can be rapidly flexed up and down. The winch is mostly handy for heavier bows. The handle on the winch was originally much longer and fouled the wall, I cut it down to prevent this, it still provides plenty of mechanical advantage.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Sculpture's Head

I sweated the scalp on to the head of the sculpture but it looked too big and square, so I took it off again and lowered the front of the head above the brow by about 3-4 mm and made a new scalp. To solder it on I cleaned, fluxed and tinned the two mating surfaces using old lead/tin solder.. (the lead free solder is crap and has caused nightmares for the electronics industry. I did hear that the whole justification for lead free was based on some faulty arithmetic, but don't really know). You can see from the pic, I held it in position using my special gravity clamp (or hammer as it's sometimes called) while I heated it with a fine blow torch.
In the interest of exactitude, the picture of sweating on the scalp is from the fist time I did it, you can see the line of face and top of head is about 90 degrees and V square. The second attempt has a more rounded scalp and and more obtuse angle with the face.

The head still looks a bit bulky but that's the odd thing with a flat cut out style of construction. Things can look too skinny or too wide from different angles. Once he has his second pair of arms at the full draw position his shoulders will be more solid looking.

You can see I've also jogged his neck now.

The 'Beauty and the beast' pic (bottom right) shows a little try out piece I did, a lady archer with a crown which I did for one of the girls at the Tudor re-enactment who'd had a go with the Hazel bow. She'd worn a funny felt crown with a squeaker in it at the Mad Hatter's hog roast afterwards which was rather fetching and comical, so I couldn't resist making her a little momento.

I'm making the bow for the low hands position from the thin copper sheet as it isn't the main position, more a shadow of where the bow was before full draw.
Anyhow, I'd hammered it to work harden it and got it straight and slim, then it dropped off the work bench and stuck in my toe just behind the nail!
The perils of wearing sandals.
You wouldn't think something so small would do any damage, but the tips are quite sharp and it fell straight down like an arrow... errr bow...err whatever... it smarted and drew a surprising amount of blood. Rather amusing, toe skewered by copper bow!

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Copper Archer Taking Shape

The sculpture is taking shape, I've slimmed down his limbs and got him posed with a bit of cane the size of the bow. I've ordered some 5mm diameter copper rod for the bows as the relatively thin sheet won't look right. His second pair of arms for the full draw position have been cut out.
Coming along nicely.
It's a nice change from making bows and a great thing to just tinker with and fuss over. His head will get jogged across a bit to make his neck more central and there will be plenty of other changes.
Of course, in this ready to draw pose he'd bee looking down at the bow or out at his target, but I don't want to have multiple heads. The main thrust of the sculpture will be full draw. This first arm position is just giving the feeling of build up, anticipation and movement.

It's all about slowly building up the balance and feel. A bit like making a bow, it has to be all brought up to the finished state together, can't just work on one bit in isolation and finish that.

Copper is great to work with as it's soft enough to cut and file easily but can be hardened with some hammering or softened up again (annealed) by getting it red hot and quenching it. That's the opposite to steel which would harden if quenched from red heat.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Another Copper Sculpture

I've had enough of making bows for a while. the next will probably be a warbow in Novenber when the stave is seasoned. Although knowing me I'll probably pick up an odd stave and have a go... that Elder cut in the Spring is V tempting.
There is tons of stuff to get on with.
My brain is chock a block full of stuff from the day job, so it's time for some tinkering and fun stuff without the stress of trying to tiller a heavy bow.

I've embarked on another copper sculpture, this time an archer clout/flight shooting. A similar feel to the first one
but with a bit more gravitas, I see him heaving back a warbow, but part of the fun is letting it evolve.

I've roughed it out on the bandsaw using a fine blade for non ferrous metals. Cutting thin sheet can be a bit nerve wracking as it can snatch and rattle. Keeping the blade guide low and having two hands on the work helps, (one hand behind the blade). To some extent I'm using it more like a power file taking off small amounts with great care. When in doubt... don't. That's the way to work with a bandsaw.

The last pic shows a bit of steel bar in the vice, I've rounded off the end to act as an anvil. The chunk of Oak with the step cut in it goes in the vice too to provide something to support and push against when filing.
You can see he's a bit ungainly at the moment but hopefully you can see how his weight and balance will be distributed. You can also see how his head is being wrapped around.